UPDATE | The Gaslamp Killer’s new event series, Airplane Mode, was cancelled twice in Long Beach due to community backlash at having an artist accused of rape perform at local venues.
Members of Protect Survivors: Long Beach Allies, a newly-formed group advocating to amplify and protect the voices of sexual assault survivors, played a large part in the cancellation of Airplane Mode at Que Sera and Ashley’s on Fourth, both watering holes and performance spaces frequented by a tight-knit community of local bands, DJs and artists.
During the #MeToo movement last fall, a rape allegation was posted to Twitter against Bensussen, who denied the allegation and filed a lawsuit in November “claiming that the woman spread ‘malicious and fabricated rape allegations…based on a consensual sexual encounter,'” the Los Angeles Times reported. No chargers were filed and the lawsuit remains ongoing, according to the article.
The tweet from Chelsea Tadros, posted on Oct. 12, 2017, alleged that on July 5, 2013, William Bensussen, who performs as The Gaslamp Killer, drugged and raped her and her friend. On May 15, 2018, Bensussen released a statement on Instagram responding to the allegations.
One member of Protect Survivors, Keayva Mitchell said that a bartender she spoke to at Que Sera prior to Wednesday seemed sympathetic to the issue, who then informed the bar’s owner about the rape allegations against Bensussen.
The event had been booked through a third party and the owner hadn’t known about the allegations, according to Mitchell. Que Sera then cancelled the event, according to arts and media collective FORTHE.
The event was then rebooked shortly after at Ashley’s on Fourth. Mitchell then called Ashley’s and was able to reach the bar’s booking agent, who she said “didn’t want anything to do with anyone who acts like that,” and promptly cancelled the event.
Steve Massis, owner of Ashley’s on Fourth, declined to comment. Multiple requests for comment from Que Sera, as well as Bensussen, went unanswered.
Protect Survivors sent a member out to both Que Sera and Ashley’s Wednesday night during the time the event was originally scheduled, who according to Mitchell, reported that Que Sera was closed and Ashley’s was quiet.
Prior to the second cancellation, Protect Survivors had organized a protest outside of Ashley’s that never happened due to the second cancellation.
“It feels good, it really feels like we accomplished something,” Mitchell said. “We want to just make sure that we as a community are opening this dialogue.”
Mitchell, a Long Beach local, said the group’s big push is to encourage others, especially venue owners, to be socially conscious in artistic spaces.
“We just think questions should be asked when a person is accused multiple times of rape before they’re booked for a show,” said Tamara Romero, also a member of Protect Survivors.
Next steps for the nine-member group include approaching different venues to see how they can create spaces for survivors to speak out and bring more people into the discussion.
The first event of the Airplane Mode series took place at the Hi Hat in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Several commenters on the event page made note of the rape allegations and questioned The Hi Hat’s judgment letting The Gaslamp Killer book a show at the venue.
Airplane Mode also occurred at The Kava Lounge in San Diego on Thursday night.
PREVIOUSLY: Venue changed for performance by famed DJ accused of rape; protest planned
8/28/18 at 5:45 p.m. | Airplane Mode, the Gaslamp Killer’s new event series scheduled for Wednesday night, will no longer take place at Que Sera and has been moved to Ashley’s on Fourth, organizer CUSS Records posted on Facebook this afternoon.
Que Sera could not immediately be reached for comment as to why it would no longer host the event on such short notice.
Locals have voiced their concern that DJ and producer William Bensussen, better known as “The Gaslamp Killer”—who has been accused of rape—would be permitted to play at Que Sera, known for its progressive programming and support of the city’s diverse population, according to Long Beach-based arts and media collective FORTHE.
Protect Survivors: Long Beach Allies has organized a protest outside of Ashley’s on Fourth against the DJ’s performance, slated to begin at 8:30 p.m. The organization is encouraging participants to “bring your signs, loud voices, and expressions of why Gaslamp Killer—and other artists accused of multiple rapes—should not be able to go into ‘airplane mode’ and play in Long Beach with no questions asked.”
Ashleys on Fourth, located at 1731 E. Fourth St., did not immediately return a call for comment about the planned protest.
PREVIOUSLY: Gaslamp Killer’s new event series ‘Airplane Mode’ to land in Long Beach Wednesday
8/27/18 at 2:23 p.m. | One of the founding residents of Low End Theory, an influential club night that became a fixture of Los Angeles’ underground music scene—and ended its nearly-12-year run earlier this month—has unveiled a new concept for the dance floor called Airplane Mode.
Noted DJ and producer William Bensussen, better known as “The Gaslamp Killer,” kicks off the new event series on Tuesday at The Hi Hat in Los Angeles, with its second installment to take place in Long Beach at Que Sera on Wednesday.
The idea behind Airplane Mode is to create a space where attendees can experience a “tribal connection” with each other, a night off from feeling isolated or experiencing the “separate togetherness” developed during this day and age of technology. Guests will be encouraged “to stop worrying about what other people are doing and be present. No more experiencing an event through the lens of your phone,” according to the event page.
Some fans of Bensussen are looking forward to the electronic experimenter’s return from a year-long absence following a rape allegation made against him last fall. The allegation—which Bensussen denied—likely played a part in organizers announcing the end of Low End Theory’s residency at the Airliner, according to the Los Angeles Times, which also reported that charges were never filed and that the lawsuit remains ongoing.
Low End Theory, which attracted fans that believed the “little event was reframing electronic music culture,” helped launch the careers of Grammy-nominated producers and artists, including “Flying Lotus,” and was thought of by many as an open, accepting and experimental space for an incredibly diverse range of artists and attendees alike.
Airplane Mode will take place Wednesday night at Que Sera featuring The Gaslamp Killer, Long Beach-based electronic artist Zackey Force Funk, Taso, Samantha & Mario Caldato, alongside special guests. Doors open at 8 p.m. with a $10 cover to those 21 and over. Check out the event page for more info here.
Que Sera is located at 1923 E. 7th St.